What is Gaslighting in a Relationship? How to resolve the conflict

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Sandhya and Ravi are newly wed couple. Both are working. Before marriage after talking to each other regularly on phone for 6 months, they felt they are good fit for each other. Both mutually agreed to help each other in daily chores.

Since Ravi loved cooking, he promised to cook biryani on Fridays as Sandhya would be late to home on Fridays. Sandhya agreed to take care of groceries in weekends.

Both enjoyed the honey-moon stage. Their power struggle stage in the marriage started. Now, Sandhya got relaxations on Fridays where she could come home early to help Ravi in his cooking. To avoid work at home, she intentionally started spending extra time with her friends chatting or playing video games.

Ravi: Is your work increasing day by day?
Sandhya: yes ( as expected)…

And it won’t stop there. On the dining table Sandhya starts attacking

Sandhya: Ravi, what happened to your biryani. It is not tasting good anymore. I am fed up with this taste less food… ( despite the food being tasty)

Her constant lies created self-doubt on his cooking skill. This happened every Friday.

One fine morning…

Sandhya: ( started yelling at Ravi) Ravi!!! I told you many times not to try Cygnus builders. You do not know much about it. One of my friends who bought the flat said their quality is not reliable.

…Now, Ravi’s idea of going for Cygnus was trivialized.

Finally, the couple registered with Milkyway builders and during monsoon, the flat was full of damp patches.

Sandhya: Ravi, your choice is always bad!
Ravi: Sandhya, we have made this decision. On the other hand, I tried looking for the other builders which you denied. ( Ravi tried to defend himself)

Sandhya: (The furious Sandhya) Yes. You know what, I think you are a bad luck to me. Never in my life I made a wrong decision!

Dear readers, the dialogues in the above conversation are examples of Gaslighting. Gaslighting is an emotional abuse of the other person in a relationship. Abuser starts telling lies, Belittling the other person, Blaming other person.

Impact of Gaslighting

In the given example, Ravi starts turning inwards with lots of Self-doubt, his performance at work-place decreases, his social behavior changes.

Stonewalling (disconnecting emotionally and giving no response to Sandhya’s comments), a dangerous sign to the relation may take place.

What to do?

  • Recognize whether Gaslighting exists in the relationship. Being aware of Gaslighting is the first step.
  • Next important step, talk to your partner about it.
  • Sometimes, Awareness, Acknowledgement and Talking about it to the partner resolves the conflict.
  • If it does not resolve, consult a Mental Health Professional.
Manjula Gudipati
Manjula is a practicing Counseling Psychologist, specialized in Family & Marital Therapy, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy and CBT. Prior to her career in this field, she worked as a Senior Officer in Government of Andhra Pradesh. Besides writing for Avaaz24, she is associated with an NGO that works for mental health issues of the downtrodden.

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